1972 Year In Review

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Ford Falcon 500
With the introduction of the XA Falcon in 1972, many bemoaned the passing of a legend that was the XY GTHO.

Alfa Romeo Alfasud
The Alfasud was launched in 1972, setting a new benchmark in its ability to rust.

Honda Civic
The Civic marked Honda's entry to mainstream car manufacture, a success story that endures to this day.

Manx Beach Buggy
The Beach Buggy was on-song in 1972, and none more so than the Manx. The company claimed it was "the untamed pussy cat".

Holden HQ Monaro
The 4 door Monaro would not appear for another year, but to test its acceptance the all new Belmont based SS model would be released.

Matlock Police In Pursuit
Is it any wonder the TV drama Matlock Police remained incredibly popular when the boys in blue were getting about in a Holden HT Monaro.

Mazda RX2
The brilliant new RX2, a 1.1 litre rocket.

Borg-Warner 45 Transmission
The smaller Borg-Warner 45 Transmission, which featured one extra cog.

Gough Whitlam
The Australian Labor Party's catchy gingle "It's Time", interestingly the first time a gingle had been used in a political campaign, brought a touch of US politics to Australia, and swept Gough Whitlam to power.

Abigail was to set all young mens pulses racing in Channel 0's raunchy new soap "Number 96".

Munich Olympics Terrorist
The World held its collective breath when PLO terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The Alfasud

1972 was the year two car manufacturers were to makea play at joining the worlds largest, yet only onewould succeed. The product that would propel Alfa Romeo toward these dizzy heights was the new ‘affordable’ Alfasud. Manufactured in Alfa’s new factory in SouthItaly, (hence the name Alfasud - "Alfa South"), Alfa Romeo invested in new technologies in an attempt to take the more mainstream car manufacturers head on, utilising technologies such as front-wheel-drive and MacPherson strut suspension.

But undoubtedly the highlight was the new boxer engine (horizontally-opposed/flat engine). Although only a single cam rather than the twin cam designs of other Alfa's, it had superior smoothness and its responsiveness earned it the reputation of being the sweetest engine available in the class for more than a decade. But voracious rust and build quality problems would quickly tarnish the cars reputation, and many consider the little Alfasud more a lemon than a leader.

Meanwhile, Honda was to introduce their impressive but perhaps more traditionally constructed Civic. The post World War 2 motorcycle manufacturer had first ventured into the automobile industry with the creation of the S500 sports car, however to break into the lucrative international markets Honda needed to produce a vehicle perceived as 'economical', having the appeal of the venerable Mini, while offering new levels of ride and comfort. With fully independent suspension, a light alloy engine, good performance and a reasonable price tag the Civic became an instant success in Europe and the US, and Honda was now perceived as a serious car manufacturer and competitor.

The 4-Door Monaro

1972 would also see Holden test the waters for a 4 door Monaro. Although it would not be released until the following year, the new “SS” would be based on the entry level Belmont, but would receive sports car enhancements such as sports wheels, a GTS grille, side vents, blackouts, black boot panel and unusual bonnet stripes from the headlights to the front scuttle panel. The SS was an immediate hit, and the green light given for the production of the 4 door Monaro.

For 1972, Mazda would introduce the revolutionary RX2. Conventional in almost every regard, it was under the bonnet that set the RX2 apart from its competitors. The new 12A rotary engine boasted a healthy 97kw of power from its modest 1.1 litre capacity, although unfortunately the small capacity did not translate into the expected miserly fuel economy. However in an era mostly devoid of turbochargers and the like, the RX2 offered fantastic bang-for-your-buck and created an aura that lingers to this day.

The Borg-Warner Type 45 Auto Transmission

In 1972 Borg Warner began producting their Type 45 automatic transmission, although a three-speed version (Model 55) using mostly the same bits as the Type 45 was being produced in Japan for engines of 3-litres. The Type 45 was produced in a new multi-million dollar factory at Kenfig in South Wales (UK), and it represented a then brand new concept. It had two clutches and three brakes to control the operation of three planetary trains all of the multi-disc type. These were complimented by a sophisticated system of hydraulic valves and accumulators, but there were no servos or band brakes, so running adjustments were eliminated.

The Type 45 had a 3.0 to 1 first gear, a 1.94 to 1 second ratio, a 1.35 to 1 third and a direct top with a reverse of 4.69 to one (by making the forward gears close in ratio and therefore much smoother in operation, the high reverse was a direct result). The Type 35 automatic used a 2.39 first, a 1.45 second and a direct top with a 2.09 reverse. The Type 45 selector quadrant followed the conventional sequence of P R N D 3 2 so there was nothing new for the driver to learn. As in the Type 35 and 65, a single mechanical control was used to operate the parking pawl as well as to select the driving range required.

A starter-inhibitor switch and a reverse light switch were provided. But the big news with the Type 45 was the slimness of the all-alloy transmission case and bellhouse, being 3 and a quarter inches narrower than the 35, (247mm as against the Type 35 three-speeds 327mm). This allowed manufacturers to reduce the size of the floorpan - and increase internal space. The overall length increased about one inch to 13in. but weight, despite the extra ratios and the two extra sets of gear trains, remained the same at 112lbs.

Volvo Assembly Becomes Local

Volvo was never a company to embark on a program of radical model changes. Instead their cars were refined and improved steadily over the normal Volvo model span of at least a decade. The changes brought in during 1972 were not the most significant thing about the 1972 models – for those in Australia the important change was that some of the Volvo line-up were locally assembled. The Motor Producers Company (who also assembled VW and Datsun in Melbourne) started the assembly of Volvos and these began to appear in Volvo showrooms about half way through 1972.

First off the line were the 140 and 164 models. The new 164 fuel injection sedan with 175 bhp was assembled in Australia, but the 1800ES Coupe/station wagon remained fully imported. Externally the only way you could pick a 1972 locally assembled Volvo was by the recessed door handles, while on the inside a remote control gear lever replaced a long direct shift on 140 series models, and the console, behind gear knob, was new. The automatic transmission selector was now floor mounted and conformed to standard positions, this widely regarded at the time as a major improvement over reverse action column selector on pre-72 models.

From a safety angle perhaps the most important change was that inertia reel seat belts were standard throughout the range. Other important changes included a short remote control gear-lever similar to the one fitted to the 164 series for the 140 models, an improved automatic gearbox with floor mounted console change and the standard PRND21 positions and a four spoke steering wheel. Minor improvements included heavier brake pads for a further reduction in fade, an improved handbrake linkage, new safety knobs on the dashboard, modified shock absorbers for a smoother ride, mock-wood dashboard and a new central console below the dashboard for extra controls and switches, a warning light for the choke, shorter head restraints for better rearward visibility, reinforced seats made with stronger webbing, improved adjustment for lumbar support, storage pockets in the doors and helper springs for folding the front seat so that it became a one-hand operation and an attractive range of new colours.

On the Grand Luxe fuel injection sedan, the engine output was increased from 130 to 135 bhp and the injection control system was modified to give better exhaust emission control and smoother operation. The 164 was fitted with ventilated front disc brakes and the automatic transmission version swapped its 3.31 final drive ratio for the manuals 3.73 diff for improved acceleration. Externally the only change to all the cars was the switch to recessed door handles. Happily the prices remained unchanged but the base 142 sedan was dropped so that, for 1972, it was impossible to buy a new Volvo for under A$4000.

During 1972 Volvo were not the only European manufacturer dropping new models on the local market. The Fiat 130 sedan and coupe arrived in Australia in April, and these were joined later in the year by the Fiat 127 sedan and 128 Coupe. Alfa Romeo offered the 2000cc engine option on the 1750 Berlina and GTV with price increases ranging from A$600 to A$750 depending on the model. During 1972 Renault introduced the station wagon version of the 12 and an automatic version of the 16TS in June/July.

It's Time

On the social front, 1972 is best remembered for the Australian Labor Party's incredibly successful "It's Time" campaign, that saw Gough Whitlam sweept to power, although we remember it as the year Ford released the XA Falcon. Far more modern in appearance, the new style lacked some of the rawness that gave the outgoing XY such an agressive and menacing appeal. On the sub-continent, Pakistan was to withdraw from the Commonwealth while Ceylon formally became the "Republic of Sri Lanka".

The Watergate Affair

And shortly before the last GI's were to leave Vietnam, five burglars were arrested at the Watergate building in Washington. Thus began the infamous "Watergate Affair", which ultimately led to the impeachment of then president Richard Nixon. Other notable events of 1972 include the Chilian Coup, the Yom Kippur war in the Middle East, the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey, the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon, violence in Africa (perpetrated by men such as Idi Amin), the invasion of Afghanistan by the USSR, the Shah fleeing from Iran and a near nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island in the USA.

Number 96

Is it any wonder then that Australians needed a distraction? Thankfully the 0/10 Network was to provide just such a distraction when it ran the ground breaking soapie "Number 96". While Australian's collective black & white TV screens steamed up with the antics on the show, the controversy caused by the sex and nude scenes seems laughable by today's standards.

Australia's first taste of terrorism was to be experienced when two successive bomb blasts destroyed Yugoslav travel agencies in Sydney. Obviously this event stuck in the minds of the screen writers for "Number 96", as it would be a bomb blast employed to eradicate 4 cast members a few years later to try to rekindle the ratings.

Meanwhile, the government announced that all Australian TV stations would have to convert to colour by the beginning of March 1975. It also scrapped the use of Fahrenheit as our temperature measure, replacing it with the Celcius system. As Tasmanian's farewelled Lake Pedder (used as part of the new hydro-electric scheme), they cheered their sporting heros on to win Gold at the Munich Olympics in swimming and yachting, while the stand out star of the games was the USA's Mark Spitz who bagged an incredible 7 gold medals at the pool. Tragically, the Munich games are most remembered for the actions of the PLO in taking the Israeli athletes hostage.

The Sunbury Music Festival

On the musical front, 1972 is best remembered as the year of "Sunbury". Inspired by Woodstock, the Sunbury Rock Festival was held over 3 days of the Australia Day long weekend . Of all music festivals, this one is the best known in Australia and is regarded as the archetypal Aussie rock festival. It made a profit (which was rare for its time) and for the next few years became an annual event.

It was held over 3 days in a residential “satellite” suburb of Melbourne. The musicians performing were some of the biggest names of the day including the much anticipated return of Max Merritt. But it was the performance of Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs that epitomized the Sunbury rock festival. The band was a triumph on stage, resulting in a Top 5 album Aztecs Live! at Sunbury. Fans at the event rallied with the cry of “Suck more piss!” – a catch cry that became indelibly associated with the event.

Conditions at the festival were fairly primitive with toilet facilities being hopelessly inadequate. On the flip side beer was available in huge quantities and the crowd was noted for rowdy, alcohol-fuelled character. Guitarist Phil Manning when interviewed by The Age in 2003 gave this blunt assessment of the Sunbury phenomenon: “It was a time when the hippie thing was declining and the drunken afternoons of too much beer, sun and basic rock developed. The music went from being experimental to being just moronic entertainment for yobbos”. The details of Sunbury were as follows:
  • Location: Sunbury Victoria
  • Attendance: 35,000
  • Ticket: $6.00
  • Line Up:
  • Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs
  • Max Merritt & the Meteors
  • Spectrum
  • Chain
  • The Wild Cherries
  • SCRA
  • Pirana
  • Tamam Shud
  • Company Caine
  • Friends
  • Carson
  • The La De Das
  • Glenn Cardier

1972 Ampol Radio Commercials

Formula One Championship:

Emerson Fittipaldi (Brazil) / Lotus-Ford

1972 Bathurst Winner:

Peter Brock / Torana XU-1

NRL Grand Final:

Manly-Warringah (19) def. Eastern Suburbs (14)

VFL/AFL Grand Final:

Carlton (28.9.177) def. Richmond (22.18.150)

Melbourne Cup:

Piping Lane (J. Letts)

Wimbledon Women:

Billie Jean King d. E. Goolagong (6-3 6-3)

Wimbledon Men:

Stan Smith d. I. Nastase (4-6 6-3 6-3 4-6 7-5)

The Movies:

  • The Godfather
  • Deliverance
  • Cabaret
  • Sleuth
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Academy Awards:

  • Best Picture - The Godfather
  • Best Actor - Marlon Brando (The Godfather)
  • Best Actress - Liza Minnelli (Cabaret)

Gold Logie:

Gerard Kennedy (Division 4, Nine)

The Charts:

  1. Popcorn - Hot Butter
  2. Ben - Michael Jackson
  3. American Pie - Don McLean
  4. Happiest Girl In The Whole USA - Donna Fargo
  5. I Am Woman - Helen Reddy
  6. Rangers Waltz - Mom & Dads
  7. Without You - Nillson
  8. First Time Ever I Saw Your Face - Roberta Flack
  9. Puppy Love - Donny Osmond
  10. I've Got To Have You - Carly Simon


  • Gil Hodges (Famous American baseballer)
  • J. Edgar Hoover (Director of the FBI)
  • Harry S. Truman (Former US President)

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